how (not?) to get paid by the government

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My trip to Boston is to do some training on social media at Hanscom AFB. It's been ten years since I last did any training for a base, and boy have things changed. Back then, when I completed a training job I'd mail them an invoice, and then I'd wait--often for a verrrry long time--for my check. It was frustrating from a length of time standpoint, but at least it wasn't very labor intensive.

Fast forward a decade, to the wonderful world of web-enabled databases. That ought to improve the creaky, slow payment system, wouldn't you think? No, of course you wouldn't think that, not with the government involved.

When this training was arranged a couple of weeks ago, they asked me if I could accept a procurement card (credit card) for payment, and while I haven't done that in the past, it sounded like it would be worth the cost of credit card processing if I could speed up the payment process. It would be particularly nice to get paid before the credit card bills for the airfare, shuttle, hotel, and rental car come due. But to do that, I had to apply for the not-free Paypal website payments pro account, which took several days (and involved updating my very neglected business website, since Paypal requires an active business website as proof that you're not going to try to scam people...)

Over the past two weeks, I've spent more hours than you'd believe entering data about myself and my consulting business into first the Paypal site, then the government's Centralized Contractor Registry (CCR), and then the government's Online Representations & Certifications Application (ORCA). Those took days to process.

I thought I was finally done last Friday when I finished the ORCA registration, but yesterday while I was flying home from Seattle I got a frantic message (or two) from the contracting office saying they needed my tax ID # (which, of course, had already been entered into CCR and ORCA), so I called from the Atlanta airport and gave them that over the phone.

This afternoon the contracting office called me again to say that for some unnamed reason (I called back to ask but couldn't get through) they could not pay me with a procurement card, and that I'd need to register in yet another online system--the Wide Area WorkFlow (WAWF)--in order to have my invoice processed. (I'd link to that one, but apparently their security certificate isn't valid...inspires a lot of trust, no?) That system has a 25-page instructional guide, with twelve separate actions and registrations you have to complete.

I got as far as the fourth step, which involved enrolling in the Electronic Document Access system, and then I was informed that the system would take five days to process my application. Who knows how long the next eight steps will take?? Un-freaking-believable. I'm hoping against hope that once I get to the base tomorrow we'll be able to get this sorted out, but I have a baaaaaaad feeling about how long it will take me to get paid.

The end result? At least a full workday's worth of redundant data entry into poorly designed and disconnected databases, all to get me to the point where I can submit an invoice and wait to get paid. Again. Feh.

2 Comments

Ahh, federal bureaucracy, the convoluted web built of forms, registrations, and shattered souls.

"That's what government's are for: get in a man's way." -Mal

It seems like there are always hoops to jump through, especially when it comes to government and large corporations. Recently when I started a new contracting position with a large investment firm, it took me 9 total business days to get admin access to my desktop, so that I could install the software I needed to start work... gah!

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on June 24, 2008 11:07 PM.

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